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Seabed cables will be fixed by next week

But more will break - it's normal

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The three - yes, just three - seabed telecoms cables which were broken in two (only two) recent incidents are expected to be fixed by next week, according to the operating companies. The ongoing tinfoil-hat frenzy that has followed the outages may take longer to die down.

Reuters reports that Indian telco cable subsidiary FLAG said yesterday that its line north of Egypt would be sorted by Sunday. The adjacent SEA-ME-WE 4 cable should be done tomorrow, according to its owner Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. The third break, suffered by the FLAG-owned FALCON line between Dubai and Oman, should also be fixed over the weekend.

Seabed telecomms cable faults are actually a routine event, occuring twice a week according to industry experts. Most breaks result from human activities such as commercial fishing or ships' anchors dragging, but others are caused by storms. There are even a few cases (pdf, page 32) recorded of sharks biting through lines. The introduction of modern high-bandwidth fibre has meant that there is a tendency toward single points of failure, but in most cases alternative routes can be used and users never notice a problem.

The two breaks north of Cairo gained wide attention, however, as they initially caused severe disruption to traffic between Asia and Europe. The third break, followed by a power cut which briefly disabled a further Gulf line and an erroneous newpaper report claiming a fifth outage, saw tinfoil hats donned worldwide. The stampede gained such momentum that even respected analysts were caught up.

Fortunately the mainstream news services seem now to have stopped reporting breathlessly on every submarine outage. With luck, the conspiracy bloggers will soon wipe the spittle from their monitors and find something else to get excited about. ®

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